How can osteopathy help with stiff neck pain and headaches?
Your neck and cervical spine is a complex structure of bones, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels and nerves. It serves an important function in supporting your head, which carries your brain and protects the nerves that run down your spinal cord. With such a heavy load to bear, neck stiffness, neck muscle tightness, and headaches are common conditions osteopathy can treat effectively.
A strong, flexible neck enables you to perform the essential activities of day-to-day life. Its function is linked to your immune system, your energy levels and overall well-being. Your neck rarely gets a rest from its key responsibilities of supporting your head, brain and protecting your circulatory and nervous system. It’s also a very fragile structure that doesn’t cope well with trauma and is sensitive to stress and poor posture. While neck complaints are common the good news is conditions such as neck stiffness, muscle tightness, and neck pain can be treated effectively with regular stretching and osteopathy.
What are the common symptoms associated with neck pain you should see an osteopath for?
Neck pain symptoms generally present as stiffness with a degree of pain that restricts head movement and neck flexibility. Neck pain is often associated with muscular tension in the shoulders and can refer up into the back of the head, often leading to a tension headache. It’s common for neck pain and stiffness to be felt on one side and you may experience a sharp nerve pain shoot down your arm. Neck pain can occur gradually or can come on suddenly, for example when you wake up in the morning. Conditions of the neck can cause dizziness or vertigo, which may improve with osteopathic treatment for your neck.
If your neck pain is severe, or with weakness/numbness down the limbs, or occurs with other symptoms such as chest pain or high fever, you should seek urgent medical advice.
What can trigger neck pain?
- Traumatic accidents or collisions
- Poor posture or sitting position
- Sleeping position or an unsupportive pillow
- Repetitive head movements or new activities requiring unusual neck movement
- High contact/tackling sport and activity
Common neck pain conditions we treat at our Camberwell clinic
Neck pain is a common complaint from clients who visit our Camberwell osteopathy clinic. The conditions range from wry neck, where you may experience stiffness, limited movement, pain and muscle spasms, to whiplash generally caused from some form of trauma such as a car or motorbike accident. Facet joint sprains are common with active clients who cycle long distances or participate in tackling sports such as football. Clients of all ages are increasingly presenting with ‘text neck’, a repetitive stress injury caused by frequent poor posture and a forward/downward head position, common when using laptops and mobile phones. For older clients, wear and tear of the facet joints contributes to cervical osteoarthritis, which can be a source of neck pain and stiffness. Various forms of neck injury can also be accompanied by dizziness or cervical vertigo, conditions which can be treated at our Camberwell clinic.
Our approach to treating and relieving your stiff neck pain?
As with all conditions, we take very personalised approach to treatment. Our first task is to conduct a physical assessment to determine exactly what is causing your neck pain. Osteopathy is a gentle, hands on treatment for neck pain. Osteopathy uses a variety of techniques to settle inflammation, restore blood flow and encourage movement back into the joints. We will match the pressure of massage and muscle manipulation to your pain tolerance. Our aim is to get you back on the road to recovery, enjoying the activities you love doing without discomfort. Together we’ll look at your lifestyle factors and identify the potential activities or triggers for your neck pain and work out a comprehensive recovery plan, including appropriate neck exercises you can do at home in between osteopathy appointments.
What can you do in between osteopathy appointments to help relieve neck pain/discomfort and aid in recovery?
Should you apply ice or heat to your neck?
Cool therapy is the method of choice for settling inflammation. Applying an ice pack (according to instruction) within the first 24-72 hours, for up to 20 mins can help to relieve pain, swelling and inflammation. For neck pain where there is no obvious bruising or swelling, many clients find heat therapy helpful in reducing tension and discomfort. Heat packs can be applied 72 hours after your initial symptoms.
Rest versus activity.
Your neck is a fragile structure that needs to be nurtured but one of the best ways to maintain full function is to regularly take it through its full range of motion. Pain is an important guide to understanding what your limit is. By speaking to your osteopath, we can advise you on the types of activity to help successfully rehabilitate your neck injury.
Gentle stretching to help with neck discomfort and tension
If you are experiencing neck tension and restrictive movement, stretching can help release stiffness and improve strength, flexibility and motion. If you find the muscles are too tense and simply don’t want to release, this is when you’ll find treatment beneficial. Osteopathy helps to relax and lengthen the neck muscles and tendons. This helps to restore movement and makes it easier and less painful to stretch. Remember to seek advice on which actions are helpful and which should be avoided.
Watch Geoffrey, our osteopath demonstrate simple stretches you can do at home to help improve your neck function and movement.